Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that results from infection with the hepatitis B virus. Hepatitis B can be either acute, a short-term illness that occurs within the first 6 months after being exposed to the virus or chronic, a long-term illness that occurs when the Hepatitis B virus remains in a person's body.
Hepatitis B is spread when blood, semen, or other body fluid infected with the Hepatitis B virus enters the body of a person who is not infected.
People can become infected with the virus during activities such as:
- Birth (spread from an infected mother to her baby during birth)
- Sex with an infected partner
- Sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
- Sharing items such as razors or toothbrushes with an infected person
- Direct contact with the blood or open sores of an infected person
- Exposure to blood from needlesticks or other sharp instruments
Hepatitis B Signs & Symptoms Acute
Hepatitis B produces symptoms that include:
Loss of appetite
- Abdominal Pain
Clay-colored bowel movements
Jaundice (yellow color in the skin or the eyes)
Hepatitis B can produce ongoing symptoms similar to acute Hepatitis B, but many individuals remain symptom free for as long as 30 years. Chronic Hepatitis B can result in long-term health problems, serious liver conditions including liver damage, liver failure or liver cancer.
Many people with Hepatitis B have no symptoms but can still spread the virus.
Hepatitis B Immunization Recommendations
Hepatitis B can be prevented by immunization and provides greater than 90% protection to those immunized before being exposed to the virus. The vaccine is usually given as a series of three doses over a 6-month period.
Immunization is recommended for women who:
- Have sex with an infected partner
- Are sexually active with multiple sex partners
- Are seeking evaluation or treatment for a sexually transmitted disease
- Share needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment
- Have close household contact with someone infected with the virus
- Are healthcare and public safety workers at risk for exposure to blood or blood-contaminated body fluids on the job
- Have chronic liver disease, end-stage renal disease, or HIV infection
- Residents and staff of facilities for developmentally disabled persons
- Travel to regions with moderate or high rates of hepatitis B
- Anyone who wishes to be protected from Hepatitis B virus infection whether they have risk factors or not
Hepatitis B Links & Resources
The links provided below offer more information about Hepatitis B and Hepatitis B immunizations.
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